Key denies spyware claims

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Maarten Holl

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key is flatly denying suggestions New Zealand installed controversial spyware to collect data from the Southern Cross cable.

A $271 expenses document filed with America's National Security Agency appeared to point to talks about installing such a programme.

Documents obtained by Fairfax and the Green Party showed an engineer for the NSA spent two nights in Blenheim in 2013 to talk about setting up a "special operations site [SSO]."

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said this referred to a cable access programme which would significantly expand the ability of the GCSB to intercept emails, internet communications and phone calls coming in and out of New Zealand over the Southern Cross cable.

But Key’s office today issued a strongly worded denial that any such programme had been installed.

“We can categorically state that there is no such programme operating in New Zealand, and any claims that there is are utterly wrong. In answer to your second question of whether we are contemplating one, we are not and we have no intention of introducing one.”

There was no mass surveillance of New Zealanders “and we do not use our partners to circumvent the law”, Key said through a spokeswoman.

The trip was disclosed in a general expense disclosure relating to any NSA travel costs not funded by US taxpayer.

It declared a $271 payment for "transportation, lodging and meals."

Blenheim is where the Waihopai spy station operated by the Government Communications Security Bureau is located.

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The NSA document does not show whether the special operations site went ahead.

A GCSB spokesman said the agency would not comment on visits or specific subjects under discussion. 

"From time to time we discuss contemporary technology with partners, including where it may or may not be useful. The recent summary of the Performance Improvement Framework review of the NZIC noted that it is positive that New Zealand’s partnerships give it 'much greater and more valuable support, skill, technology and intelligence than would otherwise be available to it'."

The spokesman added: "As has been previously stated, the GCSB don't do mass surveillance and we don’t use partners to circumvent the law".

 - © Fairfax NZ News


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